What Is MR Enterography?

Magnetic resonance imaging is a test increasingly used in the diagnosis of intestinal complications. Find out what to expect from her and how to prepare for the exam.
What Is MR Enterography?

Last update: 26 April, 2023

Magnetic resonance imaging is an imaging test used by specialists in the diagnostic process of diseases that affect the small intestine. The scan relies on magnetic fields to create detailed images and, as Johns Hopkins Medicine reminds us, it doesn’t involve any radiation. Today we’ll answer the questions and prejudices about MR enterography.

What is MR enterography used for?

MR enterography is used in patients with gastrointestinal diseases.
The fact of suffering from a chronic gastrointestinal pathology – such as irritable bowel syndrome – may make it necessary to carry out special tests, which allow the assessment of the integrity of the digestive system.

As we have already mentioned, the test is particularly useful for obtaining detailed images of the small intestine. With its help, the doctor may encounter the following problems:

  • Tears in the bowel wall (even small ones)
  • Irritated or inflamed areas
  • Blockages or obstructions of the intestinal duct
  • Ulcers or pus-filled pouches on the lining fabric
  • Bleeding somewhere in the small intestine

These five elements are useful in determining the presence of certain diseases; for example, studies and research support its use to detect Crohn’s disease. In addition, evidence indicates that the test can be used to rule out ulcerative colitis.

Using other imaging tests may not be enough to detect these conditions. More accurate diagnoses can be made with the help of magnetic resonance enterography, without resorting to invasive procedures. It isn’t only used to make the diagnosis, but also in the following cases:

  • Monitoring the disease
  • Assessment of the body’s response to treatment
  • Monitoring for possible complications that don’t generate obvious symptoms

In relation to the latter, magnetic resonance enterography can detect small tumors with great precision. As X-rays are not required, this is a process that prevents ionizing build-up in the patient.

What are the risks of magnetic resonance enterography?

Like other tests of this type, magnetic resonance enterography carries several risks for patients. The most important are described below:

  • The generated magnetic field can interrupt the operation of some instruments implanted in patients (pacemakers, ear implants, defibrillators, cerebral aneurysm clip, and so on).
  • Contrast material can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • In patients with liver deficiency, the contrast medium can cause liver problems.

Although the evidence doesn’t seem to associate complications, its use is generally avoided in pregnant women, especially in those who are less than three months pregnant, since there aren’t enough studies to assess the risks or potential sequelae.

How to prepare for the test?

If your doctor has suggested this test, there are several things you should consider. In principle, find out whether you belong to the above-mentioned groups (i.e. if you’re pregnant, have liver disease, or have any devices inserted into your body).

Assess the pros and cons of taking the test and discuss available options. As the test takes an average of 45 minutes, some patients may experience anxiety or claustrophobia. Therefore, it may also be necessary to discuss the possibility of using a sedative to prevent crises. Other things to remember are the following:

  • Get a general blood test to assess your health
  • Consult a specialist if you need to temporarily abandon any ongoing drug treatment
  • Consider using earplugs if your hearing is very sensitive
  • Don’t wear jewelry, piercings, or other accessories on the day of the test
  • Avoid eating or drinking six hours before the procedure
  • Make sure someone goes with you if you’re discharged on the same day (most common)

You should also speak to a specialist if you are prone to allergies. Although the chances are very low, the contrast medium used can cause a reaction in some patients. Your doctor will do a small test to determine your body’s response.

In addition, we advise that you talk to the specialist about the real reasons why MR enterography will be performed. You should be aware of what they’re looking for and what illnesses could be found through this test exam.

What can you expect during an MR enterography?

MR enterography is performed by radiologists.
Talking to the doctor before and after the scan is important to clarify any doubts and know what to expect from the procedure.

On average, the duration of a magnetic resonance enterography is 45 minutes. You won’t feel any pain, although you may feel uncomfortable from being immobile for so long or from the noise of the machine. It’s very important that you limit your movements, otherwise the images will lose precision. The procedure, in general, consists of the following:

  1. The doctor will administer a sedative to prevent claustrophobia (if necessary).
  2. Your clothing will be replaced with a robe for added comfort.
  3. You’ll receive the contrast material orally. This is usually done an hour before the test starts.
  4. The team will help you to lie down on the machine table.
  5. You’ll receive an injection of supplemental contrast material intravenously.
  6. They’ll tell you about limiting movements before starting the scan.
  7. They’ll activate the machine and it’ll start scanning your body. You may be asked to hold your breath at certain times.
  8. After obtaining the images, they’ll be evaluated and, if necessary, complemented with other scans.

At the end of the scan, you can get dressed and you’ll be referred to a recovery room if you have been sedated. Contrast material can cause dizziness, leave a bad taste in the mouth, or cause mild cramping or nausea.

There are no dietary limitations after performing MR enterography. Unless the expert suggests otherwise, go through your routine as usual. Results can be obtained on the same day or within the period indicated by the medical center.

When you have them, the specialist will evaluate the information obtained. He may suggest another test for extra images if there are still questions about what they show. However, this all depends on the reasons for having the scan.

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  • Stern MD, Kopylov U, Ben-Horin S, Apter S, Amitai MM. Magnetic resonance enterography in pregnant women with Crohn’s disease: case series and literature review. BMC Gastroenterol. 2014 Aug 16;14:146.

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